Community Association of the Year

Very Large Community Association of the Year: Montebello Condominium Unit Owners Association

Montebello Condominium Unit Owners Association was named Community Association of the Year in the Very Large Category. They are managed by FirstService Residential, AAMC. This is the essay submitted with the community’s application. 

By Douglas M. Kleine, Board of Directors & Assistant Treasurer, Montebello Condominium Unit Owners Association

Montebello is a community committed to vision and communication. Our vision statement and core values are printed at the beginning of each board meeting packet.

Our board has at least one open retreat each year to tackle long term issues. The most recent retreat led to appointment of a Grounds Committee and a commitment of $500,000 a year, to be applied to restoring the extensive natural woodlands that provide a “getaway” setting for our residential towers and amenities and define our community’s distinctive character; also to improving ornamental plantings and landscaping in other common areas. Thirty volunteers jumped at getting involved and residents quickly began work on projects such as transplanting native seedlings, inventorying mature trees, and developing a landscape master plan.

Vision means getting ahead of physical plant and financial issues. Montebello conducts reserve studies every three years. In addition to a strong preventive maintenance program, we commission other studies such as facade condition, energy audit, and water pipe risers, in order to have current information about hidden repair and replacement needs that may arise in the future. Montebello’s reserve balances are routinely praised by our auditors, and the community is proud of its history of no special assessments.

Montebello’s current board has three past Presidents (two other directors were presidents of other community associations) and four past Treasurers. You would think that there is nothing this board doesn’t already know. Yet this board has appointed “resident consultants” who voluntarily advise on engineering, architecture, interior design, web site, and even the care and upkeep of a baby grand piano bought with donations from the community.

Montebello’s management has been trauma free. We have had just four general managers in 35 years, and three management companies. The current management company just completed its tenth year of service. Montebello’s staff is very stable with many employees passing ten- and twenty-year anniversaries.

The board refuses to accept the status quo as “good enough.” Several years ago, the board appointed a Quality Improvement Committee. That committee has established quality benchmarks for governance and communication. One payoff is that the percentage of residents who say they would recommend Montebello to a friend is consistently in the high 80s. Another measure of satisfaction and communication is the low delinquency rate for condo dues. Montebello’s is less than one percent.

Recently the Quality Improvement Committee has been conducting 30 second email surveys on topics such as party room redo, choice of parking lot lighting fixtures, desired recreation and education programs, the community newsletter, and safety. Survey response rates have approached 30% and provided valuable input to the board. The committee also assisted in focus groups on pedestrian safety, Community Center renovation, and customer service.

Montebello is also active beyond its borders. As a member of the Mount Vernon Council of Citizens Associations, Montebello appoints representatives to have input on broader neighborhood issues and be messengers back to the owners about developments on the horizon.